MIAMI – Southwest Airlines (WN) is one of the major users of the Boeing 737 MAX along with Ryanair (FR), with 511 737-700 and 181 737-800NG.
In 2011, the company signed an order for 280: 250 737 MAX 8 and 30 737 MAX 7. Although WN’s entire fleet is exclusively Boeing aircraft, the company has winked several times at the Neo family of Airbus. Recently, news had come out of possible interest in the A220 by WN to retire the carrier’s first Boeing 737-700.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said he was undecided. He believed both are functional planes for the airline.
Boeing 737 MAX Crashes
Seattle-based Boeing wanted to force on production to cope with the Airbus lead and the launch of its Neo family. This rush by Boeing caused considerable problems that ultimately led to the Lion Air crash in Ethiopia. From here on, the plane was grounded for 20 months. This generated no lesser problems for the companies that had signed agreements for obtaining the MAX, including WN.
At the Farnborough Air Show, the Boeing 737 MAX was having considerable success over the years since 2016, totaling 5400 orders, compared to the 300 of the Neo family. This led Boeing to increase the production of the Max to 92 aircraft per month.
A New Life for the Boeing 737 Max
After 20 months grounded, the revelation that Boeing-FAA did not perform all the MAX tests adequately and further still-inconclusive testing by EASA, the plane was recertified. The ungrounding is official only in the US because the FAA itself has approved the recertification for that country. For Europe, the OK from EASA is still needed.
But the glass is half full for Boeing. Many airlines have canceled orders for the MAX due to the COVID-19-related financial crisis and stiff competition from Airbus. Yet some airlines will resume deliveries of the type as a way to get ready for the end of the pandemic.
American Airlines (AA) will be the first to fly the Boeing 737 MAX again starting in December this year. AA did state that it would not force passengers to fly the MAX. Whatever that means for bookings, routes and schedules is anyone’s guess. The type has not had an incident over US airspace, but details of its re-entry into service still need to be worked out.
Southwest’s Gary Kelly has said, “There is much work to be done before our MAX aircraft will resume service, which we estimate will likely take place no sooner than the second quarter of 2021.”
The Work to Be Done before Returning
The work starts with every single Pilot at the company to be trained. This means they will need to go through the proposed new training manuals for the type, which some Pilots have said looks incomplete, plus the original computer-based 737 MAX 8 course that WN Pilots may have completed prior to grounding.
The Pilots will also have to complete flight training on one of the airline’s two new simulators, as well as computer training on the MAX procedures.
In addition, the airline has to prepare the planes to resume flight after having been stored for months when not in use and removed when needed. WN’s Boeing 737 MAX fleet remained in storage in the Mojave Desert. It seems they will now be on their way to WN’s hubs to once more take to the skies.
Featured image: Southwest Boeing 737-800. Photo: Southwest